Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Emmy Nomination Blues

It all started out so well.

Emmy nominations were released on Thursday, and I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning.  While overall it was a somewhat lackluster year in television, there were some really great performances and exceptional episodes along the way. When I finally had time to go to the Emmys' site, at first I thought all of my dreams had come true--that the nominations were going to reflect the best of the year. The first list that popped up was lead actress in a drama series...and at the top of the list was Vera Farmiga from Bates Motel! This is what I had been waiting for! The Emmys to break their own routines, to recognize great breakout performances. This was such a good omen! But alas, my joy was short lived. As I kept going through category after category, it became clear this year was perhaps one of the worst in terms of snubbing the deserving and rewarding the mediocre.

Awards shows all have their own cliched pitfalls, and the Emmys are no exception.  Because of the repetitive nature of the genre--TV shows can run for years-- we see the same names being nominated (and winning) over and over again.  This year, I was particularly disappointed by the nominees for comedies. But let me go back to the beginning.

Vera Farmiga's nomination for Bates Motel was a bright spot in the Lead Actress in a Drama category, as well as seeing Kerry Washington get a nod. Just because Scandal is a "guilty pleasure" doesn't mean people aren't doing great work on the show. On the flip side, what the heck is Connie Britton doing on this list? I loved her as Coach's Wife on Friday Night Lights, but her performance on Nashville has been phoned in all year. Although this category had more fresh blood in it than any other, it was still a huge disappointment as Tatiana Maslany from the amazing new BBC America drama Orphan Black was left off the list.

If you aren't watching this show, you need to start. Immediately.  Maslany plays a bunch of clones, so as a single person, she is playing 4 main characters, 2 secondary characters, and then iterations on those characters as she will play one clone impersonating another. Her method is crazy, and the show is entertaining as all get out. But the real kicker is, no matter how amazing the fans and critics think her performance is, she will probably never win because Orphan Black is a scifi show, a category historically snubbed by the TV Academy (Game of Thrones seeming to be the only exception ever). I'm still bitter no one gave John Noble an Emmy for his work on Fringe. Maslany took home the Critics Choice Award for Orphan Black, giving some hope she would break the mold and get some Emmy love, too. But alas, no such luck.

What other remarkable nominations were made this year? Not many. On the drama side of things, it was a lot of the same old same old for actors and actresses, lead and supporting. As far as Best Drama is concerned, I think there more than anywhere else we see the lack of quality content coming out of the networks. The only "free" show on the list was Downton Abbey as it airs on PBS, although of course it's made by the BBC. Everything else was from a pay-for-it platform: basic cable, premium channels, or a Netflix subscription.

In the world of comedy, things were perhaps even more boring and grim than in drama. The nominations given to 30 Rock for its uneven final season make the loudest statement about how habitual the nominations seem. Do the voters even watch TV? I was a happy camper to see Amy Poehler get a nod for Parks and Rec, but what about Mindy Kaling's hilarious and oddly refreshing performance as a version of herself in the new Mindy Project? Or what about the pain you felt for Pam Beasley thanks to Jenna's Fischer's fantastic final year on The Office?

I have no idea what Jane Lynch is doing in the supporting actress category. Since the first time Sue Sylvester had a Grinch-inspired change of heart only to soon after put the Glee club in her cross hairs, we've had one long, bad, extended case of whiplash. The one highlight in this category was Miyam Bialik from Big Bang Theory getting credit for her hilarious and moving work as Amy Farrah Fowler. I would have liked to see Melissa Rauch's name alongside. In the supporting category for actors and actresses, the cast of Modern Family sans Eric Stonestreet, the reigning champ, were all nominated--again. We're seeing a theme here. I hardly have to point out that this was not Modern Family's best year, although I will, in case you didn't catch my frustration.

The men's nominations for comedy were more of the same. Whose bright idea was it to nominate Jason Bateman for the reboot of Arrested Development? Will Arnett stole the show, or should I say salvaged the new season. Similarly, although Jim Parsons had a good year as Sheldon Cooper, Simon Helberg brought new depth and new humor to Howard Wolowitz on the Big Bang Theory. In Supporting Actor land, where are the boys from New Girl? Max Greenfield was side-splitting as Schmidt, but Jake Johnson was tearing. It. Up. His love story with Jess and own personal flounderings were the stuff of comic gold.

The nominee list for Best Comedy was fairly humdrum. 30 Rock, clearly past its prime, lives on since voters seem incapable of imagining a world where they don't vote for it. Where is the nomination for Parks and Rec, I ask you? Someone give them an Emmy, already!

The Guest categories, usually overlooked, had some gems in them. I have no idea what Bertram Cooper is doing on the list for Guest Actor in a Drama.  I can barely remember the times he was on screen on Mad Men. But Nathan Lane as Pepper on Modern Family is always a bright spot of any season. Bob Newhart's return to TV on the Big Bang Theory was an amazing testament to his impeccable comic timing. And the three nominations for hosts of Saturday Night Live shows that this is hardly the beginning of the end of SNL as some have predicted. The Emmy's other dirty little bias--popular shows-- rears its ugly head in the guest category as well. I would have loved to see Lennie James nominated as a guest on the Walking Dead for Morgan's return episode Clear. But seeing as how The Walking Dead was the highest rated show in the sacred 18-49 demographic, of COURSE they can't also give it an Emmy.

Looking back over these lists, I just sigh thinking of all the names I wish I had seen. Overall, only a few pleasant surprises showed up this year. Emmy voters welcoming House of Cards to the party is a good omen for Netflix and other TV shows produced on unorthodox platforms.  But American Horror Story: Asylum leading the pack with 17 nominations makes me wonder, what are these people huffing? The silver lining in all of this is I found out Tony Hale, my beloved Buster, is on VEEP, and I now plan to start watching that show. Like yesterday.

What were your thoughts on the Emmy nominations? Agree with me? Disagree? Hit up the comments below!

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